On December 14, 2022, USCIS announced that the agency will be holding trials to develop potential changes for the tests used when an individual applies to become a U.S. citizen. Currently, the test is composed of two major parts: an English test and a civics test. The English portion includes assessing petitioner’s verbal and written comprehension by verbally reviewing the petitioner’s application with them and asking them to read and write one sentence in English. The civics test asks petitioners 10 questions regarding U.S. history and civics from a pool of 100 publicly available questions, of which the petitioner needs to answer 6 correctly to pass.
The upcoming trial, which is detailed in the Federal Register, includes the following two proposed changes:
Depending on the results of the trial, these changes may or may not be implemented into the test in the future. While the shift to multiple-choice questions may be helpful for those with general testing anxiety, the updated speaking portion seems redundant. Currently, petitioners are asked general conversational questions at the beginning of the interview and then Officers proceed with verbally reviewing the entire 20-page form with the petitioner. This current practice would presumably continue under the updated testing parameters (as the form must still be reviewed with the petitioner) and should be more than enough to assess a petitioner’s verbal English comprehension. While the photograph portion of the interview should hopefully go quickly, adding any additional time to a process that already has a backlog of well over a year is questionable. Furthermore, it introduces the risk of arbitrary denial when petitioners forget the right words for randomly selected photographs when they may otherwise be perfectly fluent in English.
The trial will run for five months in 2023. If you have comments on these changes, USCIS invites comments to be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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